Words & Photos by Doug Dresher

October 26, 2021

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The part of the Mountain Goats that I enjoy the most is just how confessional their music is. The risk of such a confessional set of songs is that they are so personal the audience may find no connection to the lyrics. But John Darnielle’s songs are about loss, love, relationships, and moving forward. His sincerity is so evident, and the themes are so universal, everyone in the audience seemed as though they themselves had written the songs or they knew that the song was written about them.

That’s how a talent like Darnielle connects to his audience. He is immeasurably happy to perform - even the sad songs feel as if there is always hope.

Many of the songs are about people and their situations, or messages from the singer to someone specific. The songs are more like stories and letters. The lyrics remind me of John Steinbeck’s writing, or perhaps a little like Thomas Wolfe’s book, Look Homeward, Angel.

Perhaps these people are real or composites of the people Darnielle has met in his travels. Either way, the subjects of these songs have secrets to tell and stories to offer. If you could listen to the innermost thoughts of the people you stand next to on the train, they are the voices you hear. Darnielle has that magic power. He can listen to what you are thinking and feeling. With the gentlest of hands, Darnielle crafts his songs. They sound so familiar because we were the ones who wrote those lyrics; Darnielle was just there to transcribe.

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I like music that makes you feel like there is hope in the world. We need more of that.

Sounding a little like Jonathan Richman, a little Phil Ochs and an enthusiastic audience made for a perfect evening.

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Born from an existential argument between the modernists and postmodernists, I have found my home with the post-punks and those who love a good slice of pizza. I live in a world of art in the age of mechanical reproduction and the ever-elusive decisive moment. Punctum and Stadium aside, I like to take photographs of people and things to see how they look photographed. While I miss CBGBs, I think Asbury Park is as close as we are ever going to get to making punk whatever we make it to be. The future is unwritten and I owe it all to Mr. Bradley and Mr. Martin. Let us now praise famous men and ask the little prince for his thoughts. Sometimes I'm on the road, but If it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I’d rather walk. My loving wife supports this albatross of an obsession and my kids put up with me well. BA, MFA, M.Ed., BCEA, Tri-X, and Nikon.

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